Friday, June 30, 2017

Don't Mess With North Carolina Women

I haven't been to Asheville, North Carolina, or spoken to maternal relatives in a while. I wonder what they would think of this story. I will check over the weekend. I think that although the woman's actions may have been a little over the top I would also bet that the thief will think twice before doing something like that again. If I were in charge of justice in this case I would probably just put the woman on a very short probation period. I would want to make sure that she understands when she can use that kind of force and when she can't. I think the thief already understands that if he wants to mess with his fellow mountain folk then he has to accept the risks of things like what took place. That had to hurt.  A pregnant woman was arrested in North Carolina on Wednesday after she reportedly mowed down an alleged thief with her SUV in a Wal-Mart parking lot, police said. After an investigation, police said that Christine Braswell, 26, of Canton, was returning to her parked car outside a Wal-Mart in Asheville on Wednesday afternoon when she saw a man enter her unattended, unsecured vehicle and rummage through her purse. 

When she confronted the man, he dropped the purse and ran across the parking lot in an attempt to flee, according to the Asheville Police Department. 

The Highwayman

The Highwayman
by Alfred Noyes
"The Highwayman" is a romantic poem created by the English writer, poet and playwright Alfred Noyes. I first encountered it as a young child in the Childcraft set gifted to me lo these many years ago by one of my great aunts. "Great" in that she was my father's aunt, not "great" in that she was a wonderful person, though indeed she was. Considering the subject matter it's unlikely that people would now consider the poem suitable for today's hypersensitive generation but kids were made of sterner stuff back in the day. And I think my aunt might have already known that I liked to read. Anyway the poem did leave an impact on me I think. I have saved and kept that Childcraft book which had the poem. I ran across it the other day while looking for something else. It's interesting what things from our childhood we keep.

The poem has a serious blues narrative. I suppose you could argue that things don't end well for the poem's doomed lovers. But you could just as easily say that the poem shows that true love will conquer all though death and hell stand in the way. The poem details the love between the titular character and Bess, the innkeeper's daughter. However jealousy and murderous soldiers end their love in this life, though perhaps not in the next. There's a balance between grim reality and romantic escape in this poem, which is echoed in many other works ranging from Tolkien's Beren and Luthien saga to the Gallows Pole traditional song made famous by Leadbelly and Led Zeppelin and even the infamous ending to Arthur Penn's Bonnie and Clyde. This poem lets everyone know that true love will conquer all. There's not a drop of cynicism to be found within. 

The poem is too long to reproduce in its entirety not that I want to do that here anyway but you can read selected portions below. Notice the poem's rhythm in the last three lines of each stanza. That's probably why many people have adapted the words to music and created songs based off of this work.

Trump and Mika Brzezinski

If I were a foreign agent or diplomat observing the President of the United States I would certainly be taking copious notes on how easily the President can be baited into saying or doing something silly or nasty. Over and over again the President finds it necessary to engage in puerile insults or get into back-and-forth with media personalities. He also has a two-year-old's attention span and need for validation. And he has extreme sensitivity to anything that hints that he's not the most virile and ahem..largest man ever. Not for Trump anything that implies that he's not always right, not always heh-heh, ready to go, and not necessarily swinging the biggest bat in town. This is information which could be of interest and use to foreign decision makers at some point down the line, if it hasn't been already. 

For someone who claims to disdain the mainstream media Trump seems remarkably well informed of what they are saying about him. It's apparent, that far from dismissing the media and so-called intelligentsia, Trump desperately craves their approval and adulation. He needs it. He must have it. And when he doesn't get it, like the two-year-old he resembles he throws temper tantrums.

A segment on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" in which co-host Mika Brzezinski said President Donald Trump was "destroying the country" might have been what led Trump to attack her viciously on Twitter on Thursday morning.

The segment took aim at a fake Time magazine cover featuring Trump that reportedly hangs at a number of Trump's golf clubs and properties, according to The Washington Post.

"Nothing makes a man feel better than making a fake cover of a magazine about himself, lying every day, and destroying the country," Brzezinski said. Brzezinski also noted that on the fake Time cover, Trump was covering his hands "because they're teensy.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Book Reviews: The 13 and 1/2 lives of Captain Bluebear

The 13 and 1/2 lives of Captain Bluebear
by Walter Moers
I am almost at a loss to describe this book. I liked it a lot. Truly did. But the combination of not wanting to divulge spoilers and not having a tremendous amount of time to ramble on about the book means that I will have to share the essentials of the book in just a few short  sentences. First of all you should get this book if you don't already have it. Next, just read it. It is a wonderful fantastical tale that takes place in an Earth that perhaps never was but certainly should have been. If you are tired of fantasies that are all about grim dark violence interspersed with dark grim bloodshed then you should probably take this book off the shelves and enter its world. I can't guarantee that you would like it but I can say that it lacks a lot of the dismal outlook which has become popular in many fantasy stories of late. This fantasy is more Moomintroll Valley, Phantom Tollbooth, or Through the Looking Glass than Storm of Swords.

Captain Bluebear, the name is evidently some sort of pun in the author's native German, is well a bluebear who lives in and around the fictional continent of Zamonia. The book's title comes from the fact that bluebears are said to have three times as many lives as cats. So Captain Bluebear describes the first half of his life. He wants some privacy so he's not telling you about the others. In addition to the fantasy stories I already mentioned there is a strong resemblance to some of Charles Dickens' work. I think it's probably deliberate. Not all of Captain Bluebear's lives terminate in his actual demise. Lives here, mostly mean a period before he transitions to something else. Occasionally one gets the very strong feeling that the good captain may not be the smartest bear in the woods.

Brooke Lajiness Pleads Guilty to Sex Offenses

Is it just me or does it seem as if there are more and more women getting busted for molesting or raping young boys? Perhaps I had a slightly sheltered childhood all those years ago when dinosaurs roamed the Earth but I don't seem to remember so many cases where adult women were seeking sex with underage males. The most recent one took place in SE Michigan. The age of consent in Michigan is 16, which is probably too young but even that tender age was just too old for a 38-year-old married woman of Lima Township, Michigan named Brooke Lajiness. Perhaps, as some have said, this crime is about power more than it is about the sex. Either way although people have pretty routinely made jokes or songs about doing stuff with someone who is 16 or 17, there's nothing to joke about when it comes to 15,14 or 11. That kind of thing is pretty despicable no matter which state or subculture you come from. 

ANN ARBOR, MI - A 38-year-old Lima Township mother has pleaded guilty to having sex with a 14-year-old boy and a 15-year-old boy. Brooke L. Lajiness admitted on Monday, June 26 during a pretrial in front of Washtenaw County Trial Court Judge David S. Swartz to having intercourse and oral sex with the minors.

She pleaded guilty to third-degree criminal sexual conduct for oral sex with a 15-year-old, two counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct for intercourse with a 14-year-old, one count of accosting a child for immoral purposes and one count of furnishing obscenity to children for sending nude photographs of herself to a minor. Through a plea agreement, 10 other counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct with a person between 13 and 15 years old will be dismissed at sentencing, Assistant Washtenaw County Prosecuting Attorney John Vella said.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Serena Williams and John McEnroe

Today, for whatever strange reason, many people consider it a hateful statement when someone says that A is not B. The retired professional tennis player John McEnroe provided a recent example of this in an interview with NPR reporter Lulu Garcia-Navarro in which after having praised current professional tennis player Serena Williams to the high heavens, he made the "mistake" of responding honestly to a question by Garcia-Navarro which in today's political climate could only be considered trollish. 

Lulu Garcia-Navarro: We’re talking about male players but there is of course wonderful female players. Let’s talk about Serena Williams. You say she is the best female player in the world in the book. 
McEnroe: Best female player ever — no question. 
Garcia-Navarro: Some wouldn’t qualify it, some would say she’s the best player in the world. Why qualify it?
McEnroe: Oh! Uh, she’s not, you mean, the best player in the world, period? 

Garcia-Navarro: Yeah, the best tennis player in the world. You know, why say female player? 
McEnroe: Well because if she was in, if she played the men’s circuit she’d be like 700 in the world.
Garcia-Navarro: You think so?
McEnroe: Yeah. That doesn't mean I don't think Serena is an incredible player. I do, but the reality of what would happen would be I think something that perhaps it'd be a little higher, perhaps it'd be a little lower. And on a given day, Serena could beat some players. I believe because she's so incredibly strong mentally that she could overcome some situations where players would choke 'cause she's been in it so many times, so many situations at Wimbledon, The U.S. Open, etc. But if she had to just play the circuit — the men's circuit — that would be an entirely different story.

For making this accurate assessment of Williams' abilities vis-a-vis professional male tennis players, McEnroe was immediately attacked as a hater and as racist and sexist. He was also badgered to apologize, which he has refreshingly refused to do, and peremptorily ordered by Williams to keep her name out of his mouth.
Well. If you don't like the peaches, don't shake the tree.

Congressional Black Caucus and Donald Trump

Politics is full of emotion. That's understandable. It's always been the case. But politics is also about reaching your goals and advancing your interest. Sometimes emotion can get in the way of doing that. For example, the Congressional Black Caucus recently declined to have a second meeting with President Trump out of the belief that Trump was so opposed to the CBC's agenda that any meeting would merely be a photo op for Trump. If you are so inclined you can read the whole statement here.
Some highlights:
Through an objective assessment, we see no evidence that your administration acted on our calls for action, and we have in fact witnessed steps that will affirmatively hurt black communities," While we agreed to explore possible future discussions when we first met, it has become abundantly clear that a conversation with the entire CBC would not be entirely productive, given the actions taken by your Administration since our first meeting. While you can solicit the engagement of individual members of our caucus, the CBC as a caucus declines your invitation to meet at this time.
As you are well aware, when the leadership of the CBC met with you on March 22, 2017, we presented you with a 130-page policy document because we recognized the opportunity to educate both you and your Administration on the difficult history of Black people in this country, the history of the CBC, and solutions to advance Black families in the 21st Century. Your Administration has yet to provide a response to the policies we presented. Additionally, your Administration has not followed through on a pledge you made to us to facilitate meetings with relevant Cabinet officials.

Friday, June 23, 2017

HBO Game of Thrones Season Seven Trailer (4)

My, my, my. What have we here. Yes, it's another HBO Game of Thrones Season Seven trailer. It looks like Daenerys has made it back to Westeros, but she might not be getting the welcome she assumed. And Littlefinger is still doing his skulking. I hope that Jon and Sansa learn who it was that betrayed Ned in King's Landing. Is Arya finally making it home to Winterfell? Can the Sand Snakes be make less annoying or hopefully written out of the story altogether?  Can Missandei and Grey Worm find happiness even though he's well..wormless? Who will be the Chosen One to defend the realms of men against the White Walkers? Jon? Tyrion? Daenerys? Hot Pie? We shall see.

Book Reviews: Sacculina, The Age of Zeus

by Phillip Fracassi
The various life cycles of Earth's fauna are amazing, wonderful, disgusting and full of horror. It all depends on your point of view. Certainly if cattle, hogs and chickens had the ability to communicate as we do and write down their thoughts for posterity they would all agree that humans are the walking embodiment of evil. What sort of sick b******s raise living beings, nurture them, feed them, ensure that they don't get sick, pump them full of antibiotics and growth hormones and then shove them into the slaughterhouse where they're shot in the head and ripped apart. Hmm?

Caterpillars wouldn't have nice things to say about wasps, while bison and deer would express nothing but white hot hatred for wolves. And yet in a very real way, morals are not as important as continuing to live and to reproduce. We place our lives and those of our children or loved ones or other humans above lesser beings. If I find an insect or rodent nest in my home I eliminate it without considering the morality of slaughtering those creatures. If a dog bites someone we often put down the dog, even if the bitten human broke a rule that was obvious to any self respecting canine. As humans we get to set all the moral rules and make every other creature on the planet subject to them, even if we are the only ones who are aware of them. We can do that because we are the most advanced creatures with a consciousness and a morality. We can also do that because we're at the top of the food chain. 

Sacculina is a novella, really more of a long short story that considers what might occur when that last condition is no longer true. I was reminded of the Cronenberg film They Came From Within. Sacculina is a taut thriller that also puts one in mind of some of Stephen King's or Michael Crichton's early work. The difference is that the characters are not quite as fully developed. But this is not a character driven story. The plot is what matters. 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Jason Whitlock Attacks Lebron James And Reveals His Ignorance

You may have missed it but a few weeks back someone wrote racial slurs on Cleveland Cavaliers small forward LeBron James' offseason Brentwood home. As far as I know the perpetrator hasn't been identified. Thanks to a demanding Day Job I didn't have a chance to write on it when it occurred. As you might imagine, as anyone would have been, James was upset about the violation of his home.

On the eve of his seventh straight NBA Finals, Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James’ Los Angeles-area offseason home was vandalized with a racial slur, according to multiple reports. Los Angeles Police Department detectives are investigating an alleged hate crime after someone spray-painted the N-word on the front gate of James’ house in Brentwood, Calif. TMZ Sports first reported the incident, which has since been confirmed by the LAPD through the local NBC affiliate. Police were called to the home around 7 a.m. local time, and the racially charged graffiti was painted over within hours of its discovery, according to reports. 

Monday, June 19, 2017

Chaldeans Blame Trump for Deportations

As you probably know if you've read any prior posts here I don't have a tremendous amount of sympathy for resident adult non-citizens who break the law in any serious way and then receive a deportation order. I have even less sympathy for a group of people who voted for Trump and are shocked when he turns on them. It's what he is. It's what he does. Perhaps for the next election people might consider looking a little more deeply into a candidate's background and history or maybe even think about voting for something greater than their own narrow perceived self-interest. You can't or rather shouldn't identify as a "conservative" and then get p*****d off when someone enforces the law against you. If you can't do the time, don't do the crime. Stop resisting. Follow the rules and you'll have nothing to worry about. Obey the law. Isn't that what self-righteous conservatives tell blacks other people who complain about selective, harsh, or inflexible law enforcement? Well okay then. When he talked about immigrants who were breaking the law with impunity and causing havoc across the land President Trump apparently wasn't, despite what some Chaldean immigrants thought, only talking about Mexicans.

Standing in the living room of her brother's home in Sterling Heights, Lina Denha wipes away tears with a tissue as she recalls how federal agents arrested him early one Sunday morning this month. 
"To just come and grab him in front of his kids and family — that's not right," she said of the June 11 detention of Haydar Butris, 38, one of 114 Iraqi immigrants with criminal records arrested in Michigan.  "He's been here most of his life. He did a mistake. He paid for it. Now, he is a good father, has kids, a family. He works, pays taxes and everything. And you just come knock on the door, come out of nowhere and grab him? That's not right."

Denha's sadness turns to frustration as she expresses disappointment with President Donald Trump, whom she and some other Iraqi-American Christians in Michigan had supported. Denha's sense of betrayal is echoed across metro Detroit among some Iraqi-American Christians who voted for Trump because they hoped he would be sympathetic to their community abroad, where they are a religious minority, and in the U.S. 
"We voted for Trump," Denha said. "That's what we get from him? ... Obama is better than him, 100 times."

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Michigan AG Attempts Justice For Flint

You may recall that the residents of Flint, Michigan suffered greatly because of the decision by the Republican installed Emergency Manager and crew to switch from Detroit supplied water to local water in order to save money. This proved to be not only a bad idea but also disastrous as neither the local infrastructure nor the local water was safe. As a result, residents of one of Michigan's most storied cities had to attempt to live in a stereotypical Third World manner with regards to water. The water was not safe to drink. It wasn't safe to use for bathing or showering. It wasn't safe for cooking. It wasn't safe to use for ice. It wasn't safe to use for washing your hands. It wasn't safe to use for anything at all.  Some people abandoned their homes. Others tried to make the best of a bad situation and reduced their exposure to the dirty water. Other people relied on bottled water for everything, a response that can get pretty expensive when you think about how much water you use every day

Elevated lead levels were discovered in children. The state leadership attempted to ignore the issue and/or insist that there was not a problem long after evidence showed that there was. Despite the fact that Steve Harvey thought that this issue was far enough in the past to joke about, it's not completely solved. It's not a joking matter. One person who doesn't see the humor involved is Michigan Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette. AG Schuette has charged five state and local officials involved in the Flint debacle with involuntary manslaughter. Some of these people are still being praised by Governor Snyder for their role in the cleanup.

FLINT, MI - Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has charged five water officials -- including a member of Gov. Rick Snyder's cabinet and a former emergency manager -- with manslaughter related to their alleged failure to act in during the Flint Water Crisis.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Music Reviews: Sarah Shook

Sarah Shook and the Disarmers
I'm not a huge fan of most country music. Usually the rhythms and tones aren't really my thing. But that said, country music is one of the basic building blocks of American popular music, along with blues, gospel and jazz. Everything is related if you go back far enough. Country rhythms pop up in Chuck Berry tunes. Ray Charles reworked country standards into soul ones. The father of country music, Jimmie Rogers, was influenced by blues artists. He was also known as a white bluesman. Rogers' yodeling later influenced blues titan Howling Wolf. Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley were influenced by black rock-n-roll and blues musicians. And on and on. One thing that the best forms of music share regardless of genre is emotional honesty. I first heard about Sarah Shook in a recent NYT review. I was intrigued enough to give her music a listen. I was happy I did. Now her upstate New York by way of North Carolina warbly alto voice may not be to everyone's taste. But I like her voice a lot. She is to me a pretty engaging singer. And she's not bad as a guitarist. The music she's creating doesn't require her or the other guitarists in her band to fly up and down the fingerboard constantly or show off everything that they know in under two minutes. Sometimes knowing what not to play and where to leave space for the vocals and other instruments is just as important as filling up the sonic voids. The guitar solos, when they occur, are usually short and to the point.

Shook's ability lies in songwriting and interpretation as far as I am concerned. She is an excellent example of someone who plays for the song. As a self-described left-wing bisexual vegan atheist civil rights activist working in a genre that has become more associated with reactionary politics, Shook shows, as many musicians of all races, both genders and various sexualities have done before her, that what matters is the emotion that a person puts forth in their music, not the singer's politics or other personal characteristics.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Bernie Sanders Supporter Shoots Republican Representatives and Police

There is still a lot that's going to be coming out on this story in the next few hours, let alone the next few days. So some of the details may change. Right now all we know is that a Bernie Sanders supporter, James Hodgkinson, shot at Republican members of Congress and Capitol Hill Police. 

Hodgkinson allegedly asked whether the Representatives, who were preparing for a sporting event, were Democrats or Republicans before he started shooting. Hodgkinson was wounded and has since died.

James T. Hodgkinson has been identified as the shooter who opened fire on Republican members of Congress Wednesday morning at a baseball field in Alexandria, Virginia, the Washington Post reports. Hodgkinson, 66, is from Belleville, Illinois, the newspaper reports. A motive for the shooting is not yet known, but Hodgkinson’s Facebook page shows someone who had a high interest in politics, who supported Bernie Sanders during the presidential election and expressed anger with President Donald Trump and Republican Congressmen.

The gunman was shot by two Capitol Hill Police officers who were at the scene as a security detail for Rep. Steve Scalise, the House Majority Whip, who was among those shot. The two police officers were also wounded, along with a staffer for Rep. Roger Williams of Texas and a lobbyist. Scalise and the officers are expected to survive.

Two Congressmen, Rep. Jeff Duncan and Rep. Ron DeSantis, described an encounter with a man who asked them if those practicing were “Republicans or Democrats” before the shooting. DeSantis, when shown a photo of Hodgkinson, confirmed he was the man who approached him, CNBC reports. Alexandria Police Chief Michael Brown said his officers and Capitol Police officers exchanged fire with the gunman.

The man suspected of opening fire on Republican members of the congressional baseball team early Wednesday morning was distraught over the election of President Trump and traveled to Washington in recent weeks to protest, his brother said on Wednesday. The suspect, James Thomas Hodgkinson, 66, of Belleville, Ill., died in a Washington hospital after a shootout with the police. “I know he wasn’t happy with the way things were going, the election results and stuff,” his brother, Michael Hodgkinson, said in a telephone interview shortly after he received the news on Wednesday. 

Friday, June 9, 2017

CNN Fires Reza Aslan for Insulting President Trump

Once again, although we theoretically have free speech in this country it is important to remember that the concept really only limits the government and what it can do to you. Generally speaking the government can't imprison you for what you say nor can it prevent you from speaking because it doesn't like the content. Corporations are not governments. And although corporations can not put you in prison, they certainly can separate you from a stream of income. CNN just fired host Reza Aslan, who made profane statements in regards to President Trump citing his travel ban in regards to the recent terror attacks in Great Britain.
After Trump tweeted about his travel ban following the London terror attack, Aslan responded, “This piece of s*** is not just an embarrassment to America and a stain on the presidency. He’s an embarrassment to humankind.”
He later took down that tweet and apologized.
But there was still pressure for the network to drop Aslan. The Media Research Center in particular spearheaded some of those efforts:

Movie Reviews: Office Christmas Party

Office Christmas Party
directed by Will Speck and Josh Gordon
Good cast but mixed results in a comedy that felt rushed
This was a remarkably silly film that wasted a good cast and familiar story on over the top foolishness and crudity. There's a way to be funny and even hilarious without having to go for the grossout every chance that you get. Unfortunately every time that something which I thought was mildly humorous occurred in this movie the directors/writers apparently must have decided "We can't have that! Throw in some gay humor! Throw in some flatulence and incest jokes! Throw in a bipolar woman on her cycle jokes! Hey there's not enough male buttocks! Yeah that's better!" So for me the movie was at best uneven. It was a mashup of Office Space, DC Cab, Meet the Millers, Major League and Horrible Bosses among others. Horrible Bosses veterans Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman basically reprise their roles from that film series. SNL star Kate McKinnon does okay with a role I think she could probably sleepwalk through. 

Courtney B. Vance seems to be having a good time playing the opposite of the serious sober types he normally plays. I will say though as I have mentioned before that if you are looking for someone to play the calm put upon everyman with a hidden snarky side then you should have Jason Bateman on speed dial. He really does that well. Of course I haven't seen him do too much besides that but why mess with what works?

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Judge Vonda Evans Lays Down The Law

One of my relatives sent me this video. One of his pet peeves is judges who lecture or insult people, usually defendants. I do have friends and relatives who are attorneys. Some of them spend or have spent time in trials. I would not have their patience in dealing with judges who are occasionally sanctimonious, patronizing, insulting, condescending and almost always bossy. I don't like bossy people.  I don't appreciate imperative tones. I don't like people who think they can speak to me any old way. But this is the way our justice system is set up. I don't think it could be any other way. When someone has the power to find you guilty or not, to sentence you fairly or not, and to put you in jail for no other reason than you got on their nerves and showed them contempt, then the wisest move for you, whether you are defendant, attorney, court worker or court spectator, is to tread lightly and keep a civil tongue in your head. Telling the judge "F*** you!" is usually not going to improve your prospects, no matter which role you currently happen to be playing in the court. 

Judge Vonda Evans scolded a man charged in a criminal sexual conduct case who swore at her in a Detroit courtroom. Anthony Thornton yelled "f--- you" at Evans during the trial Friday, and she responded to the outburst during the proceedings. "Be quiet!" Evans said. "Take him back. Take him out! Take him out now! ... I’m not even going to dignify that comment!"

Book Reviews: The Black Russian

The Black Russian
by Vladimir Alexandrov
Today Russia has a reputation, fair or not, as a xenophobic haven for Neo-Nazis and white supremacists and thus a hostile place for anyone of apparent African descent. But at the turn of the 20th century this wasn't the case. Frederick Bruce Thomas, an African-American, made and lost a fortune in Russia during the pre-Bolshevik years. He also repeated his success in Turkey. Thomas' story is an example of what someone intelligent can do when freed from the strictures of American racism. Thomas' life is also an unfortunate example of how American racism can still reach out and touch people far from its shores. The Black Russian is lastly an intoxicating tale of the events around the time of the First World War and how they shaped the world we live in today. I knew that the Turks stole (conquered) Constantinople from the Byzantine Greeks in 1453, renaming it Istanbul. 

I had forgotten that in the aftermath of WWI the Greeks, with Allied assistance, attempted to partition Turkey, conquer (retake) the Greek founded city of Smyrna, and make Istanbul an international city, with the likely aim of eventually claiming it for Greece and of course changing the name back. The Greeks were unsuccessful, something that would have a negative effect on Thomas' life and business interests. Frederick Thomas was born in 1872 Mississippi, not a place that was very hospitable to black people, especially black people who "didn't know their place". This was probably a designation that fit both of Frederick Thomas' parents, Lewis and Hannah, as well as his stepmother India, who helped to raise him after Hannah's death. Former slaves, Lewis and Hannah (and later India), had left sharecropping as early as 1869. Lewis and Hannah purchased their own farm.

The Thomas property grew to over 600 acres, a decent sized farm then or now for a single family. The Thomas family wealth allowed them to donate land for schools and churches. The family made business partnerships with white English immigrants and hired local black residents as workers and sharecroppers. White people noticed the economic power wielded by Lewis Thomas and his wife. This would prove to be the downfall of the Thomas family in Mississippi.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Kathy Griffin, Ted Nugent, Free Speech and Double Standards

I never found Kathy Griffin to be very funny. But I'm not in her primary target audience. Everyone has their own sense of humor. So when I saw the photograph of her holding a replica of Donald Trump's severed head I didn't find it amusing. I thought that the picture from the video was in bad taste and not funny. I thought it was an excellent example of how the Trump Presidency has unhinged some people. I also thought that it wouldn't be long before there would be a backlash. The thing I've noticed about the Right after all these years is that they have no problem dishing it out. They're really good at that. But taking it? No that's not what they do. Suddenly they turn into sensitive little snowflakes. The very same people who were angered about the Griffin picture were evidently laughing it up when Ted Nugent told Obama to suck on his machine gun, called Hillary Clinton a "toxic c***" , called Obama a subhuman mongrel or said that if Obama were re-elected that he (Nugent) would be either dead or in jail (because you know what he'd have to do). Trump didn't have a problem with Nugent's statements. He invited him to the White House. Of course when you came to prominence peddling racist birther stories, why would you have a problem with a racist like Ted Nugent? Birds of a feather.

The same people bemoaning the ugliness shown to Trump apparently had no issue at all with President Obama being burned or hanged in effigy, being called every single sort of racial slur imaginable, being called a skinny ghetto crackhead, being threatened with assassination, having Senators pray for his death or obviously getting the monthly run of the mill monkey-ape-gorilla comparisons. That was all just fine with conservatives. They had no problem making incredibly ugly hateful and threatening statements about President Obama, his wife, his daughters, his mother, his father and anyone associated with him. But when someone of a different political faction plays in the same dirty sewer conservatives have a problem? What changed? I have little use for selective outrage. 

Hillary Clinton: How Can We Miss You When You Won't Go Away???

Anger is a dangerous emotion. It can be useful when you channel it towards something positive. Holding on to it can be as dangerous to yourself as the object of your ire. Two time failed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is clearly still pretty angry about having lost the 2016 Presidential election to louche real estate tycoon Donald Trump. I don't blame her for being angry. I would be angry as well. There are few among us who can clearly see our own faults and move to correct them. That's why we have significant others, life coaches, friends, bosses, co-workers, siblings, consultants, and so on. But Clinton does herself and more importantly the Democratic Party no favors by blaming everyone except herself for losing an election which nearly everyone thought she was going to win.  In a remarkable interview Wednesday with the technology site Recode, Hillary Clinton went from wounded to whiny, from sympathetic loser to sore loser, as she delivered her accounting of all the things that led to Nov. 8:  Why did she lose? Let’s recap:

▪ It was the Democratic National Committee’s fault. “I get the nomination ... I inherit nothing from the Democratic party,” she said. “It was bankrupt. It was on the verge of insolvency. Its data was mediocre to poor, nonexistent, wrong.”
▪ It was the media’s fault for turning her use of a personal email server “into the biggest scandal since who knows when.”
▪ It was the Russians’ fault for leaking emails detrimental to her campaign. “I believe that what was happening to me was unprecedented,” she said.
▪ It was, ahem, someone else’s fault for helping guide the Russians on how to best “weaponize” those leaks. Who gave them that guidance? “I’m leaning Trump,” Clinton said.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Movie Reviews: Logan

directed by James Mangold
Masterful end to a series and reworked classic for modern eyes
Well. This is a different kind of Marvel Superhero film. The first thing you need to know about Logan is that it is rated R. And it is a hard R for violence and language. People are badly hurt and killed. And the camera doesn't shy away. Some of my younger relatives saw this film. I wouldn't have let them but I'm not their parent. But please don't hear "comic book movie" and think that Logan is in any way designed for children. It's not. Kids under 16 shouldn't see this film. This intense film fits with the subject matter. Wolverine was never a "good guy". As he said in the comics, "I'm the best there is at what I do. But what I do best isn't very nice." Wolverine was a killer, both on his own and in the service of governments. Occasionally he could go berserk. And when he did it was best to be elsewhere. Wolverine was also melancholic, fully aware that no matter the reason, there is a moral and emotional cost to killing that he would have to pay every day of his abnormally extended life.  

This film returns the Wolverine character to those darker roots while imagining a dystopian future for mutants. Logan is simultaneously a reboot,  a franchise conclusion, and a stand alone film based loosely on a graphic novel that my brother, a comic book guru, hadn't gotten around to reading yet. In fact he didn't sound particularly interested in investigating the source material, feeling that there are too many alternate Marvel storylines. So if you've read the comics which inspired Logan, you may not like everything in Logan. For me though, ignorance was bliss. I wasn't angered at this or that wrong interpretation or missing character or plot hole.